I love my job, and when I talk to chefs and restaurateurs -- people like Mary Nguyen, for example -- I love my job even more. Nguyen, the chef/owner of Parallel Seventeen, the cosmopolitan French-Vietnamese restaurant at 1600 East Seventeenth Avenue, is opening Street Kitchen Asian Bistro in October, a restaurant devoting solely to the street foods of Asia -- and that, people, is awesome news.
Even if it is in the suburbs.
That's correct: Nguyen is bringing her Uptown street cred to suburbia -- specifically to the Vallagio at Inverness, the same mixed-use retail, restaurant and living space where Mark Dym, owner of Marco's Coal-Fired Pizzeria, is unleashing a second outpost of his insanely popular downtown pie pad. "You know, it's a really great opportunity to bring the street foods of Asia to the forefront -- to bring urban back to suburban -- and it's unfair that most of the really great independent restaurants are all in the city," says Nguyen. "There's definitely a need for chef-driven restaurants in the suburbs, and it's also time for me to step out and do something that I've been thinking about doing for years -- street food."
The 3,000-square-foot space, located at 10111 Inverness Main Street, will have more than 200 seats, including 70 on the patio, says Nguyen, adding that she'll also have an open kitchen with a dozen seats facing the crew. "People can sit right by the kitchen and watch the cooks, and we'll also have a prep table in full view, where we'll be breaking down everything from a whole fish to a whole pig." The dining room, notes Nguyen, "will be very clean, but bright and vibrant like an Asian street scene, but not too Asian kitschy."
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Nguyen's board, a virtual travelogue of Asia, will zigzag from satays and dim sum to noodle dishes including ramen and pho, rotisseried pork belly and whole Peking ducks and chickens, curries, fried rice, stir-fries and kushiage, Japanese-style, deep-fried kabobs. "The menu is inspired by the street foods of Asia, and my goal is to bring all of those foods under one roof, while educating people about the origins of the dishes," says Nguyen. "There will be a lot of dishes that people may not be familiar with -- Thai chile fishcakes, Japanese pancakes called okonomiyaki and popiah-goreng, which are Malaysian egg rolls -- and part of what I want to do, is introduce those foods, because they're super authentic and traditional."
She's also contemplating offering all-you-can-eat dim sum on the weekends. "I'd love to do that, but dim sum isn't my area of expertise, so I'm talking to some other chefs across the country to see if they'd be interested in helping me do that here," says Nguyen.
If all goes according to plan, Nguyen will open Street Kitchen Asian Bistro in early November. "I'm so excited about this project, and I have absolutely no reservations about opening in the suburbs," she insists. "I'm doing something incredibly fun, and I think people will love it."
We already do.